Lakers 116, 76ers 88
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were the most talked about players during the recent All-Star break. The duo did some communicating of their own, agreeing to make a statement in the second half of the season.
Bryant added 28 points although he played just two minutes in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul.
“We can get it cracking quickly. We’ve done it. We know how to do it,” Bryant said. “He’s happy, I’m happy. He’s playing with a lot of energy. It’s old hat.”
O’Neal had a different take on how the duo communicated.
“We didn’t talk about anything. We can just look at each other and say, `You ready?’ and turn it up,” he said. “We’ve been in this league long enough to know when to turn it up and know how to turn it up.”
Allen Iverson, who scored 40 points in Philadelphia’s win at Seattle on Thursday, was held to 13 points on 3-of-18 shooting. He fell short of a third consecutive double-double with nine assists in 38 minutes.
“He got banged up a little bit last night, but he competes,” 76ers interim coach Chris Ford said.
Iverson had his shoulder examined after the game and didn’t talk to reporters.
“They have a lot of weapons. They got a lot of easy buckets in transition,” Thomas said. “People get out on runs, especially at home.”
On retro night, the Lakers didn’t revert to the shabby showing that doomed them in Philadelphia on Feb. 5. They had season lows in field-goal percentage (.341), first-quarter points (10) and free-throw percentage (.423) in a 96-73 defeat. They also gave up 39 points to Iverson.
“They just got us on one of those tired nights,” O’Neal said.
“We’re supposed to beat them like we did tonight. They’re not really that big in the middle. The guys got the ball inside very nicely and we got a lead, a lead good enough for me to sit out the whole fourth quarter,” he said.
It was Philadelphia’s worst loss to the Lakers since a 117-88 defeat on March 29, 1992.
“They pounded the ball inside. We had no answer for it,” Ford said. “We’ve got to be able to get the ball to the hole and we settled on jump shots. We just weren’t making them.”
Ahead by 17 going into the fourth quarter, the Lakers quickly put the game out of reach. With O’Neal resting, they ran off 15 straight points, including eight by Bryant, for a 106-76 lead with 5:34 remaining.
Los Angeles outscored the 76ers 62-36 in the paint and controlled the boards 52-37.
Bryant left the game with 3:46 to play and the Lakers’ ahead 108-82. The final 12 minutes were such garbage time even Jack Nicholson left early.
“It was so long, I can’t remember,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson joked after the game ended about 10:15 p.m. PST.
The 76ers managed just one rally in the second half. They got within five points after Robinson scored their first seven early in the third. Then O’Neal and Rick Fox took over, scoring nine in a row for a 72-60 lead. Moments earlier, Bryant went out with his fourth foul and didn’t return until the fourth.
“It was pretty ragged at times,” Jackson said. “We finally settled into some things in the third. We didn’t have to play big minutes with the starters and obviously that’s important.”
Thomas scored 10 straight points for the 76ers in the third when Iverson was shut out. Iverson’s turnover ended the quarter with the Lakers ahead 87-70.
O’Neal and Bryant combined to score 26 of the Lakers’ 32 points in the second quarter. Bryant dominated the start of the period before picking up his third foul. O’Neal finished strongly, scoring their final seven points, including three consecutive dunks, to give Los Angeles a 59-51 halftime lead.
The Lakers’ defense held Iverson to 0-for-8 shooting until he scored hisfirst basket with 5:50 left in the second quarter. He ended the game 0-for-7.
Bryant was fined $20,000 by the NBA for missing a Western Conference team photo and a pregame media session before last Sunday’s All-Star game in Los Angeles. “It’s a merited fine. Me being late, I take full responsibility for that,” Bryant said. Payton was fined $25,000 for withdrawing from Saturday’s skills competition. … It was Payton’s second fine of the day. He was penalized $15,000 by the league for fighting with Golden State’s Speedy Claxton on Wednesday. … The Lakers activated F Brian Cook from the injured list. He missed 12 games after breaking a bone in his right pinky finger against Dallas on Jan. 22. … Lakers reserve C Horace Grant overcame a bout of food poisoning to play. He received intravenous fluids after vomiting beforethe game.